Environmentalist Golfrid Siregar (left) is seen here at a protest last year against a hydroelectric power plant in South Tapanuli district of North Sumatra province. (Photo supplied)
Police in Indonesia’s North Sumatra province have launched an investigation into the death of an environmental activist following claims he was savagely beaten as a result of his activities.
Golfrid Siregar, from the Indonesia Forum for the Environment (Walhi) in North Sumatra, died on Oct. 6, two days after being found lying unconscious and seriously injured on a street in the provincial capital Medan.
Police spokesman Tatan Dirsan Atmaja said police were looking for more evidence related to this case, including CCTV footage and witnesses who found the injured man.
Police initially thought Siregar was the victim of a road accident but decided to look into it further after his family and colleagues claimed foul play
Roy Lumbangaol, Walhi's campaign manager for North Sumatra, said Siregar suffered serious head injuries, which appeared to caused by being hit by a blunt object, while other parts of his body were unmarked.
"If it was due to a traffic accident, there should also be injuries to other parts of the body," he told ucanews.
The motorcycle he was riding only had minor damage, while his possessions such as a bag, laptop and wallet were missing, he added.
Autopsy results have yet to be announced.
Lumbangaol said he suspected Siregar might have been attacked because of his environmental activities.
Before his death, Siregar was campaigning against PT. North Sumatera Hydro Energy, a firm that runs a hydroelectric power plant project in the province’s South Tapanuli district.
Siregar had opposed the power plant because it was being built in an earthquake-prone area and threatened the habitat of endangered orangutan in the area.
In March, the district court in Medan rejected a lawsuit Siregar filed looking ’calling for the plant to be relocated.
Violence against environmental activists is rampant in Indonesia, according to Walhi, which said there were 163 reported attacks or acts of intimidation against them last year.